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Prinnydood
08-08-2011, 12:56 PM
Welcome, fellow writers and readers to Talking Time fourth writing circle. The rules remain largely the same as before: write one story of at least 1000 words using the elements suggested by your peers. The element itself can be just about anything (an item, a theme, a personality quirk, etc.) as long as it is original and not overly complicated to implement.

Special rule: three paragraphs must contain an anagrammed word—an anagram being one word with letters that can be rearranged to form another word. For example: “parrot” and “raptor” would be acceptable. The word and its anagram must both be one word, so things like “parrot” and “art pro” won’t count. All three anagrams must be at least five letters long. The word and its anagram do not have to be in the same sentence.

Suggestions/sign ups will be taken until August 10 or until enough slots (about eight) have been filled. In order to sign up, simply suggest a plot element. If it's necessary, the participants will be split into equal sized groups. The winner of this round will play host to the next round and is allowed to suggest their own special rule.

Rosewood: A penguin
Alex Scott: A bootleg VHS
Nyarlathotep: A man who eats animal food
Oscar: An ominous tower
Itakare: A flashlight that breaks dramatically

Your story is due by midnight on August 26.

Rosewood
08-08-2011, 04:53 PM
It's good practice, so I'm in again!


A penguin.

Alex Scott
08-08-2011, 05:38 PM
A bootleg VHS

Nyarlathotep
08-08-2011, 05:39 PM
I'm in!

My suggestion: A man who eats animal food.

Oscar
08-09-2011, 03:40 AM
Me too!

An ominous tower.

PapillonReel
08-10-2011, 04:38 PM
I'm going to pass on this round, I think - I'm thinking I should focus on finishing the stories I already have half-written before starting something new.

Best of luck, everyone!

Itakare
08-10-2011, 06:36 PM
Screw it, I regretted missing out on the last one, so sign me up!

As for an element, let's go with a flashlight that breaks dramatically.

Prinnydood
08-11-2011, 09:04 AM
Looks like we're only going to have a few participants this round.

The plot elements are:

Rosewood: A penguin
Alex Scott: A bootleg VHS
Nyarlathotep: A man who eats animal food
Oscar: An ominous tower
Itakare: A flashlight that breaks dramatically

Your story is due by midnight on August 26.

Prinnydood
08-19-2011, 01:54 PM
It's... pretty quiet. I assume you all at least have an idea of what you're writing about. A gentle reminder: your stories are due one week from today. That's 143 words per day from now until the due date. Surely you all can manage that much.

Alex Scott
08-19-2011, 08:45 PM
Oh, I'm working on it. It's a team-up between Luc and Jerry.

Rosewood
08-20-2011, 09:58 AM
I've had an outline together for a few days now. All that's left is to procrastinate until it's panic time, if the previous writing circles are any indication.

Nyarlathotep
08-21-2011, 06:15 PM
About halfway through, I think. I'm going to make a big push tonight.

Itakare
08-24-2011, 05:15 AM
I have a cool idea! Now I just need to finish writing it! !!!

Prinnydood
08-26-2011, 02:17 PM
I hope your story is nearing completion because it's due by midnight tonight. There's still plenty of time to finish even if you haven't started yet. We have such a small number of participants this time around that we should easily have an entry from every single person that signed up.

You don't want to be that guy/gal who didn't finish, thereby bringing the crushing weight of Internet shame onto yourself, do you?

Alex Scott
08-26-2011, 06:37 PM
Done!

Luc and Jerry return in...

The Shocking Story of Popo, the Stolen Penguin (http://keromaru.blogspot.com/2011/08/shocking-story-of-popo-stolen-penguin.html)

Rosewood
08-26-2011, 09:08 PM
No... time... must... submit....


Filbert Takes a Dive

The Uplift Institute’s courier knocked on Reznick’s door later than was usual. He’d just finished his dinner, courtesy of the Dole Kitchen three stories down, and washed it down with a fortified water, when she arrived.

“Is it fish?” came from Filbert’s side of the double-wide apartment. A splash, and a quick padding of feet, heralded the penguin’s arrival into the living area of Reznick’s side. Reznick wasn’t particular about the trail of dripped water that tracked across the carpeting: three times a week, the nanos cleared out any excess bacteria or dust, leaving behind a clean, if still shabby, living space.

“Tomorrow,” Reznick replied to Filbert, who in his turn answered: “Not fish? Work?”

“I think so.” He opened the door, and a young woman handed him a narrow plastic package, and asked him to sign the electronic pad. Business as usual. She waved, and left.

Reznick had no idea why the Institute insisted on sending its communications in the form of decades-old bootleg videotapes. The package, once opened and the wrapping sent down the chute, revealed a faded cardboard cover featuring a mustached man in silver pants singing into a microphone. “Not another ancient concert,” he groaned, pulling the similarly-ancient TV setup out of its storage bin and hooking it up, hoping that another half-year of disuse wouldn’t cause it to short out again.

Filbert, having seen that the delivery was not the crate of dry-ice packed fish and krill from the Institute, immediately lost interest in the proceedings and wandered aimlessly around Reznick’s space for a little while before going back to his pool to cool himself.

As one of the earliest uplifts, Filbert's communication was quite simple. Reznick was thankful that, despite his general state of unemployment, he had a good-sized group of friends to chat and go to the Entertainments with in the Dole Arcology. Otherwise, he wondered if he would degenerate into thinking and talking solely about eating, sleeping, and swimming.

Reznick had tried to teach Filbert some words over and above his basic instincts, such as causality, shapes, and colors, but none of it stuck. Even playing games didn’t work, since Filbert never remembered the rules from session to session, and with fish and krill as rewards he was inclined to cheat to get more.

Honestly, Reznick himself had half-hoped the shipment of fish had arrived a little early. Not that the Dole didn’t provide food enough to keep him alive and healthy, but after years of their manufactured stuff, fresh food, of whatever kind, was impossible to resist. Each time, he would take a fish or two out of Filbert’s container to grill for himself. Once the fish was cooked, Filbert no longer recognized it as food, so they shared the bounty harmoniously. And Filbert had all the krill for himself.

The TV and video recorder seemed to be behaving well, so Reznick started up the videotape. The music sung by the mustached man was surprisingly good, considering the near-unwatchable quality of the video, which shook and wobbled on top of being low-resolution and grainy. In between songs--whoever edited the video must have liked the music, too--a bored-looking woman in an Institute uniform provided information on his next assignment.

He suspected that he and Filbert were given these assignments, the frequent check-ups at the Institute (for Filbert, since the Dole took care of him), and the fish, to bolster an Institute spreadsheet somewhere proving their credibility for the government... not necessarily because of any information they got. Reznick couldn’t complain, especially since the Institute’s deposits were generous and they weren’t counted against him for his unemployment benefits, as long as he didn’t use the money. In a few years, he hoped to be able to afford a space in a condominium tower with his earnings, take a few classes, maybe see if the Institute would hire him for real.

*****

The assignment took Filbert and himself off the coast of what used to be Florida. Private ground transport, private plane, and then more private ground transport to a jerry-rigged marina with a single boat, and Reznick and Filbert were ready to go.

What they’d been tasked to do was retrieve a personnel drive from a computer on the 53rd floor of the Randall Corporation, Uplift’s competitor. Randall’s entire corporate building of the time had sunk into the sea during the tsunami and global warming conjunction fifty years ago. Presumably Randall had retrieved all of the physical objects related to their biological research years ago, but Uplift thought some of data might have survived the disaster and the deaths of most of its corporate-level employees.

It wasn’t long before Reznick, with the assistance of a taciturn Institute employee whose I.D. tag read “Wilson,” had set anchor at the site of the sunken Randall building. Reznick could feel the cool air to his pores, the area having been abandoned by Weather Control not long after it had sunk under the sea. “Speaking of jerry-rigged,” Reznick muttered to himself out of Wilson's hearing. The harness attached to Filbert for his journey underwater looked like something a child might have devised--or an Institute employee strapped for time and whose mind was on other things. A LED flashlight was strapped to Filbert’s harness at about the level of his right shoulder; a handful of cameras, normal, infrared, and sonic, were on the thing somewhere (Wilson tested them on some on-board monitors while Reznick watched); and two thin fiber ropes, capable of bearing several tons apiece, twisted together from a metal ring off the harness’s back. It was a good thing that, along with the modifications to his brain, Filbert’s lungs had been rigged to breathe water as well as air, since no breathing apparatus that would have come along with this hack-job setup could possibly be trustworthy.

Filbert dove into the water as Reznick trained out the ropes. As Filbert’s keeper, Reznick didn’t have much to do except support Wilson’s instructions with his own voice now and then, but his role was still important since Filbert tended not to pay attention to anyone but Reznick. He was the one who lived with Filbert and provided him with fish, after all.

Reznick’s heart beat fast in worry for Filbert, but his concern gave way to awe when he saw the size of Randall Tower as it loomed ahead. It extended far beyond the cameras’ field of vision, a human construct suddenly helpless against nature’s power. It had been full of terror and death for a blip of time in history. Its lights long dimmed, and parts of it illuminated only by the LED flashlight, the tower was ominous. It wouldn’t be long before it was entirely taken back by the earth, if the debris falling off of it as Reznick watched was any indication.

Filbert was guided through a broken section of the wall and into the body of the tower. The fiber rope had to be taken into account as the cameras mapped out the ruined building in 3D displayed on the monitors. Dead ends and backtracking delayed his eventual discovery of the HR wing with its furniture floating to the top, or sinking to the bottom of the tilted office spaces, depending on its materials.

The illuminated section of the monitor went black, and the two men heard a terrible crack and a piercing cry from Filbert as his flashlight was destroyed in a sudden blow. They hauled desperately on the fiber ropes to retrieve Filbert, whose unconscious body finally surfaced along with a pooling of blood.

*****

A day later, Filbert had been reconstructed at the Institute, and he was well enough to come back home with his keeper. The video leading up to his injury showed that he had been attacked by an uplifted guard dog, presumably also capable of breathing underwater and left by Randall to protect its interests. It was cold-blooded, and had only been visible for a fraction of a second on the sonar playback. That was a concern, as the Institute hadn’t managed to engineer a cold-blooded mammal as of yet, much less one capable of such a rate of speed underwater. At least it hadn't kept on the attack after ruining the flashlight and three of the cameras.

In celebration of Filbert’s homecoming, Reznick invited his friends over for a party, depleting his Dole by a few thousand dollars with a catered meal, several sims, and gallons of real beer and wine.

Filbert, resting on the ice patch next to his pool, didn’t care even slightly about the humans’ noise. He had a double helping of fish and krill tonight, and he was going to eat all of it.

Itakare
08-27-2011, 01:51 AM
I have managed my time poorly and now I have obligations that I need to fulfill.

I am totally That Guy. Sorry. I will finish this though, for sure.

Prinnydood
08-27-2011, 09:37 AM
Entries are closed and voting now begins. Your choices are:

Alex Scott: The Shocking Story of Popo, the Stolen Penguin
Rosewood: Filbert Takes a Dive

You must cast your vote by midnight on Monday, August 29 by PM to me. If there's a peanut gallery out there, you can vote as well, even if you weren't a part of this round. If you were a part of this round and you're awesome, you'll submit your story even though the due date has passed. Do it and avoid further Internet shame befalling you.

Itakare
08-29-2011, 07:04 AM
I am terrible at anagrams. Have a late submission!

~~~

The locals called it a Shot Tower. To me it looked more like a Bloody Great Big Brick Thing With Too Many Damn Stairs, which was apparently its favored colloquial name. It was more than a hundred meters tall, but its girth was such that more than two people would have been crowded inside of it. Its purpose was to drop molten lead, such that it would set into a sphere as it fell and ideally be the right shape and size for use as ammunition once it had been cooled. Sadly, almost as soon as it had been built, some bright spark had come up with an idea that involved a short burst of compressed air which achieved the same result without requiring hundreds of meters of vertical bricklaying. Someone almost certainly got fired over that, and since then, the tower has been looming over the neighborhood, unused, for nearly two hundred years.

When I was standing at the base, I had thought that it looked particularly ominous.

I had come on a hunch, looking for my next big human interest story. Amongst the assorted detritus that littered the mail room, I had spotted a cassette tape at the bottom of a parceled pile of letters and nicknacks that had almost certainly not been moved since the late eighties. The words “Nauseous Valley Wind Ghibli” had been inexpertly crossed out on its label and replaced with “Watch This”. I remember being incredibly bored at the time.

The man had been poorly spoken, referring to his notes every few seconds and munching on some kind of baked snack in between. Something had been scuttling around his feet. He’d made very little sense, rambled about some kind of pocket place, made many references to a “them” and “the man” and just generally come across as the worst kind of tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy nut.

I sat on the tower and contemplated the video. It was something else to think about, rather than the impossibilities of the now. I had assumed that the penguin had been some kind of trick, but apparently not. He has pulled it into the shot and made a rather bold claim. There were shortcuts in space and time, and he had found one. He had used it to travel vast distances and befriend an extinct species. And he had the address of the closest one.

Somewhere about the tedious nature of step number four hundred had been my clue that things were not as they seemed. It had been a long time since the last window, and it was very dark. The theoretical height of the tower from the outside had been left behind long ago. My flashlight had been incapable of illuminating the roof of the tower. Another two hundred steps later, it was similarly incapable of illuminating the floor. I had climbed without reference for too long when I saw another window, up above. No sunlight streamed through it. As I neared it, my center of gravity seemed to shift. The world shifted around me until I was struggling to stay on the stairs as if they were heavily slanted.

I had only just managed to grab onto the window. I had lost the torch and it had fallen sideways, not down. The other wall had been close enough to touch once, but the torch had fallen for full seconds before I heard it smash against a distant floor. Wall. God knows.

And then I had pulled myself up into The Shortcut. Far below, in the direction formerly known as down, was a vast, distant looming object. If you looked at it with the right mix of expectations and insanity, it looked almost kinda sorta like the curvature of the earth. The tower stretched off to meet it, straight and narrow. I looked and sat and thought, as if this were a situation that could be made sense of. I had been ready to interview a hobo and drag up a shallow single column filler piece for the paper, and now this.

It was still better than looking towards the top of the tower. The straight brickwork warped and shifted with distance, spiraling and looping as it threaded its way into an enormous gregorian knot of alleys, pathways and ladders. Buildings, doors, concrete, steel, ice and wood, all done up like an Escher painting. The vanishing point. The meeting place of all the discarded edges, the suspicious nooks and crannies that lead away from the world I knew and to somewhere far more... interesting.

Next to the window had been the bag that the man had had in his video. The biscuits were shaped like bones. They weren’t half bad, considering that they must have been here for the better part of three decades.

When I reached the bottom of the tower, I held very firmly onto the ground for a few minutes and then took stock. I had only been gone a few hours but it had felt like a lifetime. My preliminary exploration had been tentative but fruitful. The Shortcut was apparently bigger on the inside though, if I was going to explore it fully I would require some kind of map. Besides that, who knew what sort of things could be in there, lurking? I’d need protection, a new torch, maybe a tent. And no one else could know about it. Not yet. This was the story of a lifetime and hell if I was going to let someone else beat me to the punch.

I could have destroyed the tape. But that would have been mean spirited. Instead, I put it in the last place anyone is ever going to look. At the bottom of a pile of useless stuff in the mail room of a nobody paper where I used to work, back in the real world.

It seemed fitting.

~~~

Rosewood
08-29-2011, 08:14 AM
I am terrible at anagrams. Have a late submission!

Better than me - mine were only five letters long, one of them was kind of a cheat because both words were plural, and I used the web to get ideas.

Good on ya submitting after all, too!

Alex Scott
08-29-2011, 08:57 AM
Oh dear. Somehow I missed that I needed three anagrams, so I just went through and edited a few more in. I should probably bold them during my lunch break.

Prinnydood
08-30-2011, 07:47 PM
Voting is now closed, for whatever that's worth. After counting up the votes, it looks like we've got a tie between our two participants. I could simply call it there and declare both Alex Scott and Rosewood the winners, but after mulling it over (read: stalling to see if anyone else would vote), I've decided to make an executive decision and declare Rosewood the winner.

The reason is quite simple I figure neither of them are so vain that they would vote for themselves. So, the only thing for it was to disregard their votes. Since only one of them voted, Rosewood was the one to come out on top.

Congratulations, Rosewood on your win! And many thanks to those of you who participated.

Rosewood
08-30-2011, 09:41 PM
I'm going to make an executive decision of my own and say it's time to give the Writing Circles a rest for awhile. In the three iterations of it I've participated in, the number of people who turned in their stories in time for voting has dwindled significantly, from 8 to 5 to 2 (iirc). I'll put on my thinkin' cap, and see if I can find/come up with something else fun for us to do. If nothin' else, as a fellow TT-er has reminded me, NaNoWriMo is coming up soon.

PapillonReel
09-01-2011, 11:54 AM
I think the problem with the past few writing circles is that the last few challenges have been more technical than creative. Writing under constraints is all well and good, but the point of the circles is more to exercise your creativity and piece together stories with seemingly-unrelated elements. Forcing in palindromes and alphabetizing paragraphs isn't as fun as being forced to write outside your comfort zone. ;)

Some ideas for future circles, if you guys decide to start it up again:
•Poetry jam
•Single story written by the entire group (eg. Alex Scott writes chapter 1, Rosewood writes chapter 2, and so on)
•Genre restrictions (sci-fi, romance, western, etc.)
•Format restrictions (diary, script, verse, etc.)
•Word count restrictions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drabble)

Basically more focus on the creative element should help spice up the writing circles. Don't get me wrong, a lot of the work done so far has been great but I can't help but wonder just how tedious it'll get for the writers if they kept doing the same challenge over and over again.

Prinnydood
09-01-2011, 02:10 PM
Some ideas for future circles, if you guys decide to start it up again:

•Single story written by the entire group (eg. Alex Scott writes chapter 1, Rosewood writes chapter 2, and so on)

I was just thinking about suggesting this.

Alex Scott
09-01-2011, 08:41 PM
•Single story written by the entire group (eg. Alex Scott writes chapter 1, Rosewood writes chapter 2, and so on)
I very much like this idea. One of my IRL writing group's favorite things to do is exquisite corpse poetry.

And also agree with the technical limitation thing. I tend to think of prompts as something like improv games, and I can see how the last few could get complicated. The "everyone suggests an element" thing is fun and really gets my creative juices going. Anagrams less so. We could probably have a lot of fun just doing writing equivalents to Party Quirks or Scenes From a Hat.

Rosewood
09-01-2011, 08:59 PM
I think I have a decent hybrid idea, which has the follow-on chapters written by different people, but am having difficulty hammering it into a shape that has a winner and losers. For a more free-form gig, how would we go about choosing the next coordinator?

Prinnydood
09-01-2011, 09:06 PM
There would have to be multiple brackets with groups submitting one entry apiece.

Raven
07-06-2013, 06:07 PM
Any chance of this being resurrected?

Teaspoon
07-06-2013, 06:48 PM
I like the idea of a resurrection, yes.